We started our series about Michigan State’s 2023 basketball recruiting class with an in-depth look at high-flyer Coen Carr, now we turn to Texas and lay eyes on another wing commit in Gehrig Normand from Birdville.
The decently-athletic, sharp-shooting guy from the Fort Worth area makes a comparison to former Spartan Matt McQuaid really easy and the haunting nemesis of Javin DeLaurier’s sleepless nights actually has already connected well with Normand on his recent visit to East Lansing. There are distinct differences between the two players, though, and a bit more to know about Normand.
Gehrig Normand’s recruitment
Just like it was the case with Carr, Tom Izzo joined the dance floor rather late when everybody else had already busted out their moves and looked a bit exhausted. The Spartans’ head man then put on a sweet song about everything East Lansing and its winning basketball tradition has to offer, waltzing around with his shiny national championship ring and multiple Big Ten championships trophies. It certainly was a tune that pulled Normand to the Green and White.
The youngster has stated that he knew right after his visit to MSU on July 28 that he would commit to the Spartans. Michigan State had just offered Normand a scholarship at the conclusion of his stay on campus, and he then publicly announced his commitment just a few days later.
A look at Normand’s entire recruiting process shows that an offer like the one he received from Michigan State seemed rather unrealistic for a long time. Up until his junior year, the plan for Gehrig was to perhaps secure a position with a mid-major program, yet after he grew into his body and delivered some promising AAU performances, more prominent offers started to come in. Known as a gym rat Normand responded accordingly and increased his effort even more in order to really make the most of the opportunity that was presented to him.
Many considered the University of Texas a favorite for the wing’s services at one time, but Normand ultimately went in a different direction. He also took visits to Oklahoma State, Missouri and, on June 20, touched down in Big Ten Country, enjoying the beauty of Madison, Wisconsin. The Badgers apparently really worked hard on Normand, and after he left town, seemed to be in good position. Until a well-known foe called Michigan State came around the corner, that is. Sorry, Badgers!
Gehrig Normand’s player profile
Just as his recruitment process only gained steam late, Normand’s on-court basketball story is the classic tale of a late riser, too. While he showed some glimpses here or there of some untouched potential, even as a younger player, his lack of strength, at times awkward mobility and speed deficiencies kept him a well-hidden secret on the plains of Texas.
Yet, over the course of the last year and change, Normand has turned himself into a completely different player. He has grown into his 6-foot-6 frame and has put on a considerable amount of muscle mass at the same time. He still needs to add some more brawn, but it is still rather noticeable how he now does a much better job of holding his position on either end of the court.
Normand possesses a high-motor that keeps on running throughout the game. That nonstop movement and energy makes up for the lack of immediate foot speed of his. Still, in terms of quickness and “fast-twitch ability” (a point of emphasis during his training regime), he also is light years ahead of where he was as a younger player.
While he may not be considered an elite level athlete, he can definitely hold his own against good jump-and-run players. That is mostly due to his impressive wingspan and his very strong leaping ability. Oftentimes, Normand almost out of nowhere explodes off two feet and finishes with a thunderous two-hand slam in traffic. The rest of his game is actually a lot more controlled, and at times, seems even a bit passive, so his dunking endeavors truly come as a surprise to many spectators.
While he has the ability to finish strong at the rim and will do so early and often, Normand doesn’t really have an advanced one-on one-game that could get him into additional situations inside. So far, he is much more comfortable playing off the ball where some of his best qualities come to fruition. He has developed into a tremendous catch-and-shoot player, who possesses a quick release and decent form. The motion from grabbing the ball and then of letting it go a moment later looks extremely natural for him and should translate easily to any level he will play at in the future. He also has a knack for moving without the ball and finding open space on the back of the defense. Normand also knows how to use that freedom, finishing alley-oops regularly.
His handle is OK for a player his size, and he has brought the ball up the court for his team quite a bit in high school. Normand is visibly more confident with his right hand, and almost exclusively relies on that side when he’s pressured and his handles really aren’t natural. The same can be said for his passes and it seems like Normand doesn’t have the greatest feel for the ball in his hands. He makes up for that, though, with very good court vision, oftentimes spotting open teammates across the court and finding holes in the defense.
His overall driving game has gotten stronger as he has grown into a more confident and physically mature player.
Defensively, Normand is a bit harder to project because his team played plenty of zone in high school and quite frankly he didn’t look good playing it. Oftentimes he was a bit slow to react, got caught out of place a little bit and his activity-level wavered. When he played as a man defender, he looked much better, though, as he was more aggressive, had his arms up all the time and moved his feet constantly.
He still has ways to go as a defender, especially in terms of lateral agility and physical presence against the ball. The same thing can be said as a rebounder — where he mostly had decent numbers, but lacked natural instincts or true prowess in that regard. His work ethic apparently is second to none (and is visible considering how far he’s come as a player) and that should definitely serve him well in both areas.
Gehrig Normand’s potential role at Michigan State
For Carr, it was noted that he doesn’t really possess the mentality or the game of a go-to scorer yet and the same can actually be said about Normand. He isn’t really comfortable with the ball in his hands yet or when he has to create shots for himself. That of course could change in the future, but his suspect handle plus his most likely usage at the next level would indicate he is more on track to be a complementary player down the road.
Many college commits spend plenty of time on the ball, as they are far and away the best players on their respective high school teams, and in the process, they develop a sense for creating for themselves and others. While Normand was the star player for his Birdville team, he wasn’t particularly used as an on-ball creator much. It is unlikely with a role player job in the beginning at MSU that this would change much.
There is nothing wrong in being a second, third or maybe even the fourth option on a good or even a great team (fingers crossed), though. Normand has plenty enough elite traits that will earn him minutes for the Spartans, and if he continues his development, there is no reason why he shouldn’t carve out a significant role sooner rather than later.
If his shooting prowess holds up (after shooting just 30 percent during his junior year in high school, people were raving about his long distance numbers in AAU lately), Normand will definitely be the type of player who fits seamlessly into plenty of lineups, and his length gives Izzo the opportunity of playing him in various positions.
How he holds up defensively will be a huge question mark for Normand, and ultimately also his key to playing time. Considering his demeanor, his perseverance and his work ethic, it seems as though that he is a guy who will work himself into being an at least solid defender, if not more.
Pair that defensive projection with his athleticism, plus his shooting potential, and you are looking at a player who should certainly be capable of making a difference for Michigan State. Just like a certain Texan named Matt McQuaid did a few years ago.